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Health Food Store Tour: Dairy and Dairy Alternatives

April 19, 2012

Hi there! I’m Christy Goldfeder, Health Coach and IIN Graduate, Class of 2006. Join me on IIN’s virtual Health Food Store Tour, where I’ll give you weekly tips on how to shop healthfully. Come back each week as we stroll through the aisles to discover which foods are the healthiest.

Like many foods, dairy can be very nourishing for certain people (like growing babies, people with type-B blood according to the blood-type diet), and not so healthy for others (for example, people with lactose intolerance). Here’s what I look for when looking for dairy and dairy alternatives:

Organic - at the very least, any dairy or dairy alternative should be organic. Conventional milk can contain antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides and herbicides. Plus, they feed that conventionally raised cows eat is often made from GMO grains - which you learned from my last post on meat substitutes.

Organic is better when you’re talking about soy, almond, hemp, or other types of milk substitutes also because of the GMO issue.

Grass-fed - this type of milk is ideal because the cows get to eat what they’re meant to eat - grass. This keeps the animal healthier, and it creates a dairy product that has the right balance of nutrients in it.

Unpasteurized - According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the pasteurization process denatures the protein and enzymes in raw milk, making them difficult to break down in digestion, and can trigger an immune response. Chronic inflammation and immune response can develop into autoimmune disorders.

Unsweetened - dairy already has milk sugar in it (lactose), and it’s healthier to sweeten something sour like yogurt with a healthy sugar alternative than to eat something that’s pre-sweetened.

Scroll down to read about dairy and dairy alternatives:


Milk: Dairy milk comes from mammals, most frequently from cows, but can also be from camels, donkeys, goats, horses, reindeer, sheep, water buffaloes and yaks. Known for being rich in protein and calcium and also fortified with Vitamin D, milk is best for young children when they are rapidly growing. Milk may not be appropriate for adults (who are already fully grown) and people who have lactose intolerance.


Yogurt: Produced through bacterial fermentation, yogurt is known for containing the healthy, gut-restoring bacteria that is essential for good digestion. Choose yogurts that are unsweetened and made with healthy forms of dairy or alternatives. Try this delicious yogurt crunch recipe.


Soy Milk: Made by grinding soaked soybeans with water, soy milk has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk and can be a good alternative for vegans and vegetarians. Since it also has no lactose, it is a good alternative to lactose-intolerant people Soy milk can be highly processed, so it’s best to read labels carefully and make sure you’re getting an organic version with no GMO soybeans or added sugars. Try this tasty fruit nut smoothie with soy milk.


Almond Milk: Made by soaking almonds in purified water, grinding them into a meal, and rendering the milk by squeezing out the water, this dairy alternative contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Almonds are also rich in magnesium and potassium. It’s a good alternative for people who are lactose-intolerant, vegan or vegetarian. Choose unsweetened almond milk or make your own.


Hemp Milk: Rendered from soaked hemp seeds, this milk alternative is rich in heart healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, magnesium, beta-carotene, and calcium, among others. Hemp milk may also be more digestible than soy milk, which contains complex sugars that can be difficult to digest. It’s also appropriate for vegetarians and vegans.

Do you prefer dairy or a dairy-free alternative?